The list of players from big schools that were named The Daily’s Player of the Year over the last 40 years is amazing.

In Class 5A-7A boys, we’re talking about 37 players over the four decades because four have been honored more than once. They all combined their talents with hard work to be stars in high school. Many of them continued to play in college and several even had professional careers.

One of the best stories is Athens’ Keith Askins. The Player of the Year in 1986 led the Golden Eagles, coached by Jerry Todd, to the Class 5A state tournament, which was held at what is now Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa.

The format was a little different in 1986. Eight teams advanced to the state. It took three wins to be state champion.

Athens blew past Jackson-Olin, 81-60, in the first round. Eufaula got the best of Athens in the semifinals, 60-55.

Askins played so well in Tuscaloosa that it caught the attention of then Alabama coach Wimp Sanderson who offered him a scholarship. Askins went on to play a key role on three SEC Tournament championship teams.

After college, Askins signed a free agent contract with the Miami Heat. He played nine seasons and was a team captain for four years. After retiring as a player in 1999, he became an assistant coach for 14 years.

This year, Askins is celebrating 31 years with the Heat organization. He’s now the Director of College and Pro Scouting/Assistant General Manager.

Voting begins today online only at decaturdaily.com for the favorite Class 5A-7A boys Player of the Year. There’s a list with all of The Daily’s past Players of the Year in the large school group divided into groups of six. You can vote once a day for one player in each group. Voting is open for three days.

Players receiving the most votes in each of the six groups advance along with four who receive the next most votes. Those 10 go to the semifinals with a chance to advance to the finals.

This contest is not to determine the best player, but instead to determine the most popular player through online voting.

Remember to vote at decaturdaily.com. Go to the main page and scroll down to the prompt. You do not need a subscription to vote, but an online subscription is just $3 for three months.

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 david.elwell@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2395. Twitter @DD_DavidElwell.

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